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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This book surprised me. Partly because I didn’t know much about it prior to reading, and partly because for some reason I thought it was going to be an action adventurer book that had later been made into a rather dreary movie. Go figure.

However, if I had bothered to read the back or the dust jacket prior to reading it, chances are I still would have been a bit surprised. (In other words, the description is so vague and standard that it really didn’t really prepare me for the tone or the story.)

Basically, The Alchemist is a fairy tale, albeit a rather long one. There is a quest, there are forces of good and forces of evil, there are morality lessons, the reading of omens, and the predictable happy ending. All of that, I enjoyed. In fact, though it isn’t my normal sort of reading, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Unfortunately, as is the case in many fairy tales, the magic sometimes seemed more like plot spackle than plot development. There are also subtle things that I think are lost in translation. I can almost feel how beautiful the passages would have been, how poetic, but in English, the flow is a bit lost and there are times when the phrasing seemed clunky.

Despite that, I found it a very, very quick and easy read. Though the story is simple, it is still engaging, and even if I have nothing in common with the main character (a shepherd boy who decides to sell his flock and embark on an adventure for a treasure he has dreamt about in a far off land), I still found meaning and hope in his quest.

Like any morality tale the teaching moments are sometimes overly redundant and the personification of one’s heart, the wind, the sun, etc can get a bit awkward and tiresome. Ultimately though, it is a fable that I will remember and pass on to others.

It was, indeed, worth reading.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


“College is over, but the party isn’t!”

Well, with a tag line like that, there’s no where to go but…. Up…. Right?

It’s been a bit since I last wrote a TV show review, (Click here to read them.), a fact not lost on a few of my loyal readers. Thanks for coming by to read the fiction reviews while you wait.

Of the four shows I have been asked to write about, this was the one that happened to be on the home page of hulu when I finished watching something else, so here you go.

This latest offering from Comedy Central is supposed to fill the need of all those former frat and party boys who are now all amazingly employed (despite the economy) but still maintain that nothing, not even their jobs, will keep them from having a good time. I have a feeling, based on the promos only, that the target audience is male, not actually working, and around the age of 12. The show is to revolve around the antics of three nobodys pretending to be actors. You think I’m joking right… seriously… of the three “leads” in the show, the one time appearance on Traffic Light and two appearances on Samantha Who are practically the only things listed as far as past experience. Wow.

But let’s start! (As was done in Castle, The Listener, and a few other shows…. First a play by play recap for part of the show, then general recap of whole show, and plenty of snark along the way.)

We open with a backyard barbeque pool party scene full of people who aren’t wearing sunglasses where we join in what appears to be the longest running game of beer pong ever. Frizzy Haired Man Child (wearing a sweat band for some reason) is suddenly bored of this and thus challenges the other two to a contest to see who can make a “smaller face.” (Pull your lips up toward your nose and close your eyes… Apparently this move has the power to shrink your face.) Brunette Man-Child, Adam, is deemed the winner for no discernible reason but is then told that it isn’t something he should be proud of. Not-Adam Man Child (in a hat) changes the subject to ask his bros if they know what “sexting” is and while middle America remembers that we have already been warned about the dangers of sexting and the sexting epidemic that is ruining our children’s futures, Adam and Frizzy Haired Man Child nod sagely. They do indeed know all about sexting.

(Microsoft Word on the other hand would like to correct “sexting” to “sexing” and I am tempted to let it.)

Funny Hat Man Child tells his now captive audience that he is “pretty sure” that he just got “way into it” because some girl that he doesn’t remember meeting last night, his memory is impaired because he was so very drunk, has been sexting him all morning. We then get the play by play of their text conversation (never as funny as it seems it will be) which is mostly “where did you go?” “you should come over” “maybe I will but in the meantime…” And then a close up photo of her nipple.

Yep. A nipple. On a smart phone. On my computer. Frozen in place. Somewhere Janet Jackson is saying “Losers, that whole nipple thing is sooooo 2004.” Actually, we all probably thought that. (And yeah, it was 2004… I just checked.)*

Back to the sext of the nipple. (Wow, Comedy Central gets away with everything!) It is an extreme close up of the areola. Not nearly as sexy as titillating. (Yep, I went there.)

The guys ooohhhh and ahhhhh. They say the word “nipple” about a dozen times and congratulate Funny Hat Man Child for getting such a good shot (forgetting that he wasn’t the one who took it). Funny Hat Man Child calls it the “nipple of my dreams” and Frizzy Haired Man Child says that he should get her over to the party by sending her a “pic of your dick.” When Funny Hat Man Child hesitates, Frizzy Haired Man Child assures him that things are in the proper order. “Nipple, Dick, Pussy, Butthole.” (They bleeped “pussy”.)

Funny Hat Man Child (FHMC) wants to know who’s butthole but they guys ignore him and send him off to get it done. Adam tells him to lose the hat. In the bathroom, FHMC talks to his dick while snapping the photo, “Are we gonna have sex?” and then rushes to rejoin his friends. He tells them that he has officially started the countdown to vagina time and also has just washed his butthole… just in case. They congratulate him.

And then Adam proves that he is a sneaky little Man Child as he has the phone that gets the Dick Pic Text… seems he had borrowed the phone from someone named Vanessa, and before stupefied FHMC can do anything, and much to the glee of Frizzy Haired Man Child, Adam forwards the text to all of Vanessa’s contacts. Lucky them. I’m sure that Vanessa’s dad and great aunt Mavis needed to get a text from her featuring some random guy’s dick. Vanessa herself appears and takes back her phone and then everyone at the party all simultaneously get The Text Felt Round The Party. Cue lots of laughing party goers. Adam: “Seems the nipple of your dreams is actually my nipple of your nightmares.” And then pulls open his shirt to show off the little bit of shaved chest that has inspired so much fun. FHMC loudly protests that the Dick Pic isn’t accurate, that there was a funny shadow in the bathroom….

… And Roll Credits!

Ok so the show is about what you expect from the premise. In fact, it only gets worse. There are more bleeped words, more toilet humor, a lot of stoner pot jokes, more inane antics… Not really sure why they named it Workaholics. Trying to be ironic. Fail.

Basically the guys are shocked to find out that after a full weekend of partying and rampant drug use, there is to be drug tests at work.

How to get out of a drug test… more drugs? Start a fire? No… No Longer Wearing The Funny Hat Man Child has been storing safe pee in his mini fridge and will give it if the other two if they eat… ceiling tiles. Which, they tell us, tastes like a “mummy’s dick.” (I don’t want to know how they know that.)

But then testosterone gets high and the pee gets splashed all over Man Child’s face.

They take a break to visit with a drug dealer friend and watch consider ODing on over the counter drugs. But no… inspiration strikes and they attempt to bribe a kid to provide clean pee… with porn (no) with music (no) with ninja stars and firecrackers… Yes! But even that plan goes awry and despite Adam carrying pee in his outstretched palm, they must accept that they can’t trick their way out of the test.

And then inspired by the Die Hard movie they watched on their lunch break, Frizzy uses the air ducts to sneak into the pee closet and mess with the samples. We get an excellent shot of him peeing all over the place (yes, we see the stream). Since he contaminated all the samples, the boys are safe to annoy the world another day.

Some of the low(er) points:

Poop in a dollar as a gag…. Adam is proud that he was able to wrap a piece of his own poop up and leave it out for an unsuspecting passer by to pick up.

Bad bad bad beat boxing slash hip hop music as the send off sounds before commercials.

“It’s gay time in the bathroom, if you go in there, you’ll be gay.”

All the pee things.

Basically… the whole show.

But if this sounds like your cup of pee, I mean tea, check it out on hulu. The next episode promises hilarity whith “The guys will stop at nothing to get tickets to a sold-out basketball game, even if it means being dunked in a horchata tank and seeing a grown man's penis.” Because… seeing a grown man’s penis is such a trial? Could this show get more insipid? More homophobic? More lowest common denominator stupid low brow potty mouthed?

I, for one, won’t be bothering to watch more in order to find out.

*Let me just break here to say that having a frozen screen shot of a nipple on my screen while I look up the actual date of Nipplegate was in fact the perfect thing to have on my screen when my boyfriend wandered into the room. He didn’t bat an eye, but then he had been sorting bone in the other room. We aren’t like other people.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time.

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time.

I had been meaning to read this book for several months but other things kept getting moved above it on the great and mighty LIST. I am so glad I finally sat down and read it.

The book is a delightful read. Told from the point of view of an autistic teenager and dealing with some very dark life experiences (the murder of a neighborhood dog for instance) the novel still manages to keep itself relatively light. It never gets preachy or over simplistic, and perhaps most importantly the “shtick” of being from the point of view of an autistic boy never becomes the focus. Instead we get a compelling coming of age story that is heart breaking in its simplicity. Most of us haven’t had to deal with the murder of a pet, but many readers will be able to sympathize as the parental units betray our protagonist, as the world is unfeeling and sometimes cruel, as the struggle for a happy ending seems eternally just out of reach.

I highly recommend this book. It was well worth the time.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bel Canto

Bel Canto

This book was unbelievably good. I mean it. I was totally taken aback by how much I enjoyed it. I read and reviewed Patron Saint of Liars also written by Ann Patchett and was prepared for this title to be on par, but it wasn’t. What it was, was a book that exceeded my expectations and was well worth the hyperbolic hype that decorated the binding.

Set in a small country in South America, the story follows the fate of several il-fatted birthday party attendees. There is of course, the birthday boy, a high powered Japanese business man who is accompanied by his translator. There are also the honored guests (who had never met the birthday boy but were invited for their titles, their money, or their ability to perhaps help this impoverished nation… the party givers –politicians of the small unnamed county were on the whole an optimistic bunch). Finally there was the world renowned opera singer who honestly was simply there in order to be paid and who unknowingly was the sole reason the birthday boy bothered to attend at all.

But wait! There are also terrorists! A whole group of rag-tag practically barefoot patriots who storm the party and attempt to take the President captive. Except that he, by a delightfully funny set of circumstances that I won’t ruin for you here, is not at the birthday party at all!

Thwarted but undaunted, the terrorists regroup and decide to take the whole party hostage.

What ensues is a four month stalemate with local authorities that sets the stage perfectly for a story about the complexities and yet pure simplicity of communication. We have people falling in love, we have people overcoming stereotypes and bigotry, we have bonds formed that put the idea of the Stockholm Syndrome to shame. We have a story about death and rebirth, a story that weaves voices from around the globe and speaks of the universality of hope. With vivid characters and the tension that all things, even dreams, must come to an end this book had me frantic to finish.

Which is where my only complaint comes. Yes, the ending is a bit expected, but that in no way detracts from the emotional upheaval it delivers. It is the epilogue that seems ill-placed. It is, in some ways, nice to see “what happened next” but in this case I think the story is stronger and holds truer to the essence of the book if the epilogue is ignored.

You will have to read it for yourself and tell me if you agree…